Accra: Obama Speaks to Africa
“I've come here to Ghana for a simple reason: The 21st Century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well.”
These were some of the opening words of US president Barak Obama in his address to Ghana’s fully euphoric and expectant Parliament on July 11th. This was Obama’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa.
In the speech, which has been described by many as “inspirational,” President Obama urged Africa to take its destiny in to its own hands.
The US president indicated that it is an irony that Africans elsewhere, and in America, are succeeding but same cannot be said for the African continent where these individuals come from.
Acknowledging fully that some strides have been chalked in Africa, President Obama minced no words at all in stating that the continent needs to do more than its current condition.
“Despite the progress that has been made – and there has been considerable progress in many parts of Africa – we also know that much of that promise is yet to be fulfilled,” he said, “We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.”
In his view, the West through its exploitation of natural resources in Africa and unequal trade terms contribute to Africa’s current state of underdevelopment. But the developed world cannot be blamed fully for Africa’s predicament.
“The West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants,” he remarked.
Central to his speech was the call for good governance and the establishment of democratic institutions, which he said was the “fundamental truth” behind the successes of developed nations. While commending Ghana for her democratic successes, President Obama reiterated the need for African leaders to adopt democratic principles, if they can truly develop.
“History offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people, [governments] that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous than governments that do not,” he stated as he made a case for democratic governance in Africa.
He pointed out that America will not seek to impose any system of governance on any other nation. Obama was however quick to add that America will: “Increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions.”
According to President Obama, Africa must break what he termed “bad habits” to be able to spearhead its own development path. Corruption, he said must be eschewed.
“No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers,” he stated.
Contrary to the popular view of competitive advantage in the trade argument, the Obama pointed to the need for African countries to diversify their exports.
“Dependence on commodities – or a single export – has a tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, and leaves people too vulnerable to downturns,” he explained.
President Obama pledged America’s commitment and support for Ghana and the African continent in the areas of HIV/AIDS, agriculture development and technology, and public health.
“America has a responsibility to work with you as a partner to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity,” he said, “This is why my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges [public health].”
President Obama also used his address in Accra to urge the developed world’s continuous support for Africa.
“Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way,” he stressed.
The Obama speech in Accra was jam-packed with motivation, hope and the ‘Yes We Can’ flavour which commonly characterises Obama speeches. The US president emphasised the need for responsibility and initiative on the part of Africa.
“The world will be what you make of it; you can conquer disease, and end conflicts,” he said with much conviction.